(NBC News) The end of the year is fast approaching - and Congress still has a lot of important work to do.
It's a Washington holiday tradition - playing beat the clock.
Congress is scrambling to get work done just as most Americans are getting ready to relax for the holidays.
At the top of the agenda - ending the budget fight that led to the government shutdown. "Negotiations are making progress, moving in the right direction. They haven't closed the deal," said Senator Dick Durbin, (D) Illinois.
Both sides want a budget, but the fine print has been elusive. "The key is that we not have another government shutdown, that we do keep the spending caps in place, that we don't raise taxes at a time when the economy is still weak," said Senator Rob Portman, (R) Ohio.
Lawmakers have to wrap up a massive massive defense spending bill.
They're still wrestling over the farm bill - which includes controversial cuts to food stamp benefits, and at odds over extending unemployment benefits. "I do support unemployment benefits for the 26 weeks that they're paid for. If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers," said Senator Rand Paul, (R) Kentucky.
"If Congress refuses to act, it won't just hurt families already struggling - it will actually harm our economy." President Barack Obama
For lawmakers in Washington - a familiar theme - lots to do, and not a lot of time to do it.
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